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Health insurers are wildly profitable. They're not quite as flush with cash as the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, but still  they're doing really well.

The top five insurers made 12 billion in profits last year. Twelve billion with a "B".

Our friends at Wellpoint are making so much that Wellpoint has instituted a quarterly dividend program for its shareholders.

Flush with cash from a strong finish to 2010, WellPoint Inc. has become the latest health insurer to announce it will reward shareholders with a sizeable payout.

The Indianapolis insurer on Wednesday unveiled a plan to spend about $400 million this year on its first cash dividend, even as managed care companies warn that the massive health care overhaul passed last year by Congress will squeeze their businesses in the coming years.

So what is AHIP up to as insurers post record profits?

AHIP is vigorously protesting a proposed HHS rule which would require a rate review for price gouging over 10% a year. In a 13 page letter to the Office of Consumer Information and Oversight (the office established as part of the ACA, to protect the American people from egregious insurer price gouging), AHIP lays out its reasons why the proposed rule should be rejected.  

All of these consumer issues are directed at The Office of Consumer Oversight. Here's where the pedal meets the metal. Life and death decisions are made in office. We're all very familiar with the sixty million Americans in desperate need of healthcare, but who cannot afford to enroll even in the newly established high risk pools simply because they are unaffordable. The American people have to depend on this office to stand firm against the insurance corporations. Because as rates skyrocket, recession ravaged Americans have no choice: food, rent, clothes or health insurance?

In early January, The Office of Consumer Oversight was moved into CMS as a precaution against Republicans defunding pieces of the ACA, and this office was high on the hit list.

The proposed regulations require insurers in all states to publicly justify any unreasonable rate increases beginning in 2011. Any proposed hikes of 10 percent or higher must be publicly disclosed and undergo thorough review to determine whether it is unreasonable, according to HHS. But AHIP says, No.

Specifically, AHIP is demanding regulators:

• Delay the July 1 deadline by which states must put in place "effective review" programs or risk the Department of Health and Human Services taking over;

• Rethink the idea of establishing a specific rate increase (10 percent, for example) as the trigger for review.

• Delete subjective criteria such as the requirement that states conduct "an effective and timely review."

In a word the insurers want HHS to stand down.

But who could forget what Anthem did last year, raising rates 39%in the California individual market.

Besides fighting all attempt at regulation, what else do insurers do to drive up profits?  Well they target sick babies, yes, that's correct, sick babies. They target sick babies simply to improve the bottom line. This is what Blue Cross did in Illinois. This Murder by Spreadsheet corporation is now paying a twenty five million dollar fine.

Taken together, this should make you recognize that the insurer endgame is precisely what Wendell Potter describes. To have 30 million new mandated customers with minimal regulation and oversight.

Here's the AHIP letter in all its glory.  It's the letter AHIP would prefer you never read.  And thanks to slinkerwink for giving me an embeddable link.


Let's end with some good American hypocrisy.

If your rage is still under control, take a listen to Representative Renee Ellmers (R-Tea Party) discussing why she eagerly accepts taxpayer funded healthcare while at the same time working to dismantle the ACA. Andhere  her mindless sycophant Tea Party followers gushthat she is working hard to destroy the government takeover of healthcare, oblivious to her own deluxe benefits.

Note that the wish list outlining which pieces of the ACA should be targeted for defunding, Congressional health benefits, didn't make the cut.

If you're so inclined,  if  you need to reset the rage thermostat, here are some things you can do.

1. You can help Anthony Weiner defund Congressional healthcare benefits.




2. I've started a group on Daily Kos:  PULL THEIR COVERAGE . Please join.  LET'S HELP ANTHONY WEINER DEFUND CONGRESSIONAL HEALTHCARE. The Egyptian people toppled a dictator, surely we can make ourselves heard.
3. You can join or follow (just click the heart) the Daily Kos single payer group.

4. You can sign this petition supporting California OneCare and the fight for single payer in California.
5. You can make a contribution to California OneCare. The fight for healthcare justice in California belongs to all of us.  

Does everyone know that in Canada, single payer began at the provincial level in Saskatchew­an and then eventually­, as more provinces embraced universal health care, the federal government got on board.  This is how it will happen in the United States, but it will take all of us.

Please note, I am on the Board of California OneCare

Originally posted to nyceve on Mon Feb 28, 2011 at 09:55 AM PST.

Also republished by Dailykos Kossacks For Action and The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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